To most of us, an internet search might seem like one of the most straightforward digital interactions there is. The Google homepage, for example, asks only one thing of us as users: to enter a query into the search field. The ask isn’t even explicit – we’ve simply come to understand what’s expected of us. However, search isn’t always obvious to new or novice users today.

Among the challenges NIUs face is the difficulty in inputting search queries. Many of them can’t type in English and don’t understand the concept of keywords. But voice tools are changing this. NIUs can now speak to their smartphones – in their preferred language – and have that converted to a text query. They will then see search results as they would if they had typed out a query. (See Voice).

Where in the past, users might have typed “easy dinner recipes,” today, users are able to use voice to ask, “what are some easy dinner recipes?” followed by questions like “where can I get those ingredients?”. In this way, search has transformed from a tool that provides quick answers to one that enables exploration among NIUs. This exploration reinforces the relevance and value of the internet as a tool for them.

Video is also becoming an important feature of search as NIUs prefer a visual and less-text-heavy search experience, which videos support. They are more engaging and digestible as content and are multi-sensory, featuring sound and vision. To ensure that more content gets across to NIUs, organizations should look to create more video content, while search platforms should consider highlighting more videos in search results.

YouTube, for example, has many features that help to make the search page even more visual for users, such as the thumbnail image, which enables users to gather a quick snapshot of the video’s content.

Another feature is time-stamped images, which show the different topics covered in a video and allow users to jump directly to the topic most relevant to their specific interest. A person who wants to work on their bread-kneading technique, for instance, can skip right to the section on kneading in a recipe video and not have to watch the other sections like pulling the bread out of the oven.

Advances in image recognition technology are enabling a new mode of discovery: visual search. Unlike text and voice searches, which require a meaningful description to generate a result, visual searches allow us to simply pan a camera lens across an object to learn more about it. Google Lens, as an example, enables users to point their phone’s camera at an object – a dress or a plant – and receive text-based information about the object.

The world has changed dramatically since we could search the internet, but human curiosity remains constant. People everywhere want to find out about everything, and as long as they do, our mission — making the information of the world universally accessible and useful — will continue to grow and evolve.

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Aum’s Story.

Every year, hundreds of small children get lost in Bangkok. When he was 7 years old, Aum became one of them. Fifteen years later, his story found its happy ending thanks to Google Voice Search.

Search is the most fundamental function of the internet, and we must do everything we can to ensure that Search is also the most inclusive function of the internet. For NIUs, that means delivering a simple search experience that allows them to use their own language or voice, delivers relevant, valuable results that are specific to their needs and contexts, and are more visual and easy to understand.


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